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posted by cmn32480 on Sunday November 22 2015, @10:48PM   Printer-friendly
from the break-out-the-big-balloons-again dept.

NASA is very publicly planning a mission to Europa in the 2020s, one that will soar over the intriguing moon dozens of times. Yet the reality is more thrilling. Quietly, the same engineers who masterminded the daring Curiosity landing on Mars in 2012 have been plotting how best to drop a lander onto the nightmare glacier. In early November, they presented their preliminary findings for a 230-kg lander to the one person in the world who can, and who dearly wants to, make that happen.

"I told them to do whatever it takes," said Representative John Culberson after meeting with the NASA scientists. "All of humanity is going to want to know what's under the ice."

The discovery of water on Mars seems to have whetted the appetite.


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Ice Spikes Could Complicate Europa Landings 11 comments

Fields of five-story-high ice blades could complicate landing on Jupiter moon

Probes have shown that Europa's ice-bound surface is riven with fractures and ridges, and new work published today in Nature Geosciences suggests any robotic lander could face a nasty surprise [DOI: 10.1038/s41561-018-0235-0] [DX], in the form of vast fields of ice spikes, each standing as tall as a semitruck is long.

Such spikes are created on Earth in the frigid tropical peaks of the Andes Mountains, where they are called "pentinentes,"[sic] for their resemblance to devout white-clad monks. [...] Pentinentes[sic] have already been seen on Pluto. And by calculating other competing erosional processes on Europa, such as impacts and charged particle bombardment, the new work suggests the vaporization of ice would be dominant in its equatorial belt, forming pentitentes[sic] 15 meters tall spaced only 7 meters apart. Such formations could explain, the authors add, why radar observations of the planet dip in energy at its equator, the pentinentes[sic] scattering the response. But the ultimate proof of whether Europa's belly will be off limits to landing will come when the Clipper arrives in the mid-2020s.

[Update: It's penitentes. Ed.]

First it was slush. Now it's spikes. Attempt no landing there.

Europa.

Also at Science News and The Verge.

Related:
NASA Releases Europa Lander Study 2016 Report
Amino Acids Could Exist Just Centimeters Under Europa's Surface


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 22 2015, @11:23PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 22 2015, @11:23PM (#266672)

    AC in awe of a single correct phrase!

    whetted the appetite

    What about the giant intelligent squid-like creatures in the "Blair Witch in Space" movie?

  • (Score: 1) by snufu on Sunday November 22 2015, @11:39PM

    by snufu (5855) on Sunday November 22 2015, @11:39PM (#266679)

    Metric or Imperial?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23 2015, @12:05AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23 2015, @12:05AM (#266689)

      Imperial. Metric would have been 1:10:100. :-)

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23 2015, @01:13AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23 2015, @01:13AM (#266712)

      Cubits.

    • (Score: 2) by Gravis on Monday November 23 2015, @05:49AM

      by Gravis (4596) on Monday November 23 2015, @05:49AM (#266849)

      neither, Standard.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 22 2015, @11:56PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 22 2015, @11:56PM (#266684)

    I'm already in Europa! Oh wait, you mean the other one.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23 2015, @12:11AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23 2015, @12:11AM (#266692)

      I'm pretty sure you're in Europe.

      Well, unless you're Zeus, then it might be that you are indeed in Europa. [wikipedia.org] ;-)

      • (Score: 2) by inertnet on Monday November 23 2015, @02:00AM

        by inertnet (4071) on Monday November 23 2015, @02:00AM (#266732) Journal

        All of Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and half of Belgium are in Europa too.

      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23 2015, @02:07AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23 2015, @02:07AM (#266739)

        Or perhaps he speaks one of the numerous languages where Europa means the continent [wiktionary.org].

        • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23 2015, @04:11PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23 2015, @04:11PM (#267031)

          Or no, given the fact that he was speaking FUCKING ENGLISH.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by khallow on Monday November 23 2015, @12:12AM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 23 2015, @12:12AM (#266694) Journal

    First, the bad news. Adding a lander to the Clipper will require additional technical work and necessitate a launch delay until late 2023. At that time, the massive Space Launch System rocket NASA is developing could deliver it to Jupiter in 4.6 years. Once there, the lander would separate from the Clipper, parking in a low-radiation orbit.

    I had the feeling that someone would try to tie a Europa mission to the Space Launch System (SLS). I think that the mission will be dead on arrrival, if they succeed at mandating the SLS for the mission.

    Keep in mind that we could fund a Europa mission and probe now, if we used current or near future launch vehicles and redirected the immense expenditures on the SLS (around $3 billion a year last I heard) on real space activities.

  • (Score: 2) by Covalent on Monday November 23 2015, @03:06AM

    by Covalent (43) on Monday November 23 2015, @03:06AM (#266780) Journal

    http://culberson.house.gov/ [house.gov]

    It's crazy how I can disagree with so many of this man's policies, and yet so strongly agree with him that this mission is incredibly important.

    What's funny to me is that he's very anti-taxes and anti-federal government. How does he propose to undertake this mission without huge helpings of both? Is he just anti-fed and anti-tax unless it benefits his constituents? Is there some aspect of this mission that will be built in TX? Is he unaware of the hypocrisy the situation? The possibilities are endless, but in all of them, I just don't get it. :)

    Politics aside, there is now no doubt that there is liquid water below the ice, and that almost certainly that water is in contact with hydrothermal vents. Any bets on whether or not there is life there? The prospect has me so excited I can hardly stand it. The things we could learn from that biology, if it's there, stagger the imagination. Does it have DNA? If so, how similar is it to extremophiles on Earth. If not, how dissimilar is its genetic code from Earth life? How does it metabolize? Is it more or less efficient than Earth life?

    --
    You can't rationally argue somebody out of a position they didn't rationally get into.
    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23 2015, @05:58AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 23 2015, @05:58AM (#266851)

      What's funny to me is that he's very anti-taxes and anti-federal government. How does he propose to undertake this mission without huge helpings of both?

      Maybe he thinks lobby-groups give money to anyone in need; why, it always happened to him!

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday November 23 2015, @12:55PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 23 2015, @12:55PM (#266963) Journal
      Unlike this congresscritter, I'm quite comfortable with lower taxes and less federal government, if that means no NASA Europa mission. That's a fair trade off.
      • (Score: 2) by Covalent on Monday November 23 2015, @03:27PM

        by Covalent (43) on Monday November 23 2015, @03:27PM (#267018) Journal

        Which is a perfectly legitimate viewpoint. But having it both ways (lower taxes and expensive government projects) is like meth: At first it makes you feel invincible, but pretty soon you're falling apart.

        --
        You can't rationally argue somebody out of a position they didn't rationally get into.